By Maddy Vitale
Kelly and Joe Cunningham, of Sea Isle, have their New Year’s Eve plans set every year. They take their kids to the City’s New Year’s Eve celebration in the municipal gymnasium where they, along with other families, dance, eat, and watch the ball drop.
Some even topped off the night by watching a fireworks display at JFK Boulevard Beach.
“This is the fifth year we have come. We can’t wait to take the kids. They love it. They love the face painting, the dancing – everything,” said Kelly Cunningham, as she put her 6-year-old daughter Brynn on her lap. “It’s just a great way to kick off the New Year.”
Brynn and her sister Keira Cunningham, 4, didn’t sit still for long and had mom and dad zigzagging the dancefloor, and waiting in line for balloons.
Keira bonked people on the head with her balloon and laughed, while Brynn kept on dancing.
The countdown began shortly before 7 p.m. When the ball dropped on the stage, the families cheered, then went back to dancing, eating desserts and chatted.
Despite temperature hovering around 11 degrees, families poured into the gymnasium for the family friendly evening. Kids waited in line to get balloons shaped into animals, blew noisemakers, wore leys and plastic hats, got their faces painted and danced to everything from “Footloose” and “YMCA” to “Nah, Nah.”
Super Heroes Wonder Woman, Captain America and Spiderman, joined the families on the dance floor, high-fived the kids and hammed it up for photo ops.
This was the first New Year’s Eve Justin Wolfe, 6, of Oceanview, went to the celebration. His mom Julie Wolfe said some of his friends go to it every year, so he asked her if he could go.
“He wanted to try it out,” Julie Wolfe said. “His friends are here. He really is having fun.”
Justin zipped around, became the Grinch, thanks to the talents of one of the artists doing the face painting and joked, “I’m not going to give back Christmas.”
He joined Spiderman and Captain America to show them he is a Super Hero too, before running to see a friend.
The celebration is hosted by the City’s Division of Recreation and Municipal Alliance Committee. Nicole Holt, recreation program coordinator, has been in charge of the event for years and said it always has a great turnout.
“I like it because it is early enough that the kids can enjoy watching the ball drop with their parents,” Holt said.
This year’s theme was “From Sea to Shining Sea.” When the event began more than a decade ago, the theme was Egypt and then it was Paris.
Alexa Campilango, of Sea Isle, said when she was young her family brought her to the event. She liked it so much she wanted to make it a tradition for her and her husband Pete and their baby Adriana.
This was the first time Debbie Giuliano and her granddaughter Sophia Giuliano, 7, both of Cape May Courthouse, attended the New Year’s bash.
“I like it a lot,” Sophia, with her face painted like a cat, said.
When asked her favorite part of the night, she said, “I liked the face painting.”
Ginny Mulford, of Petersberg, from Let’s Party Events out of Corbin City, created mini-masterpieces transforming children such as Ruby Ryan, of Pennsylvania, into Batman. Holden Sokorai, 5, became a pirate, thanks to Connie Meyer’s artistry.
Some families hopped in their cars and headed up to JFK Boulevard Beach to watch the fireworks display, but mostly adults stood outside to watch. People wore scarves draped blankets over themselves. Some people huddled together to keep warm as they watched the vibrant display of colors – reds, greens- pinks – illuminate the sky, as they clicked their cellphones to get some shots on a frigid New Year’s Eve night.